Category Archives: verse

Existential Angst

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My thirst: 

When did it surface?
Is it right to lay the blame
on a fly in my DNA, a crack in the egg,
a badly-placed step in the dance of the sperm?
Did it seep in while I swam in neo-natal simplicity?
Is it lack or a perverse surplus; missing mineral or toxic germ,
or is it quickening depletion?

Can’t slake my thirst.

Oozing through a bruising birth canal,
keening for unseen  freedom, did I forget to collect
my nourishing any-time drinks?

I started to burst

Lying naked at the wide end of space,
thin flesh tingling with echoes, did I relish or regret
my clamorous exit from the womb?

while mother nursed

My mouth spelled an O
around a milky breast, my ready tongue reached to feed –
did not the food fulfil my need?

and dreams were rehearsed

When shadows
ignored each command, did they steal
my core of stability?

and knowledge reversed

When my expanding brain saw
that the world was not me, and I was not the world
did abandonment hurt?

and faith was submersed

When young fingers
plucked springtime flowers that died,
did I mourn mortality?

and pain interspersed

When oak trees
offered me gifts that I could not reach,
did the distance scrape me?

and thunderclouds cursed.

When I tried,
yet failed to describe my existential angst,
did I itch to die?

Flew head-first

When a slick film
thickened over whimpering blood – a second skin to protect me,
did it block entry to the piece which was missing?

for the limits of verse.

How can it be
that even as I embrace life, my lungs
would like to cease breathing?

Still the ache of thirst;

can’t slake my thirst.

~~~

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Words

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Words which clamber for birth,
eager to cling to the page,
words which would raise to self-worth
modestly seeking a place.
Words which admit, words which deny,
words deftly-chosen, words misapplied.
Dominatrix words which try
to overpower a subtle punchline.

Words which have something to say,
each syllable tuned in its own way,
conciliating or armed for the fray,
screaming surprise or mumbling cliché.

Words that edge to the ideal mate;
working their way towards standing up straight,
shuffling their way into ship-shape phrases
like uneasy conscripts with falsified ages.

Words scrubbed out and aptly replaced,
jackets buttoned and shoes tightly laced,
a tidy battalion of lines and stanzas;
meter supplanting the weapons of battle,
bragging the spit and polish of rhyme,
till all might concur that the verse is sublime,
the meter is perfect, the message shines.

.

Yet words,
for all their courageous claims
of muscle, weight and girth,
often wither and fade
into an insipid blur

.

Written for Word of the Day Challenge: Insipid

©Jane Paterson Basil

Mirror, Mirror…

This Week, Calen again invites us to revisit her sandbox. She asks:

“You find yourself in a quiet room looking at your reflection in this beautiful old mirror. What do you see? Is there anything in particular you like about yourself? Is there anything you don’t like? Tell us about it.”

Here is my response:

I’m not bad for my age, though my skin’s become saggy,
the creases have deepened, my eyes got more baggy,
while my skin is quite clear and and my hair is okay –
it’s pleasing to see that there’s not too much grey.

But just two little details are getting me down;
when my face is relaxed, I’m wearing a frown
and I’ve suddenly noticed that each time I smile,
my reflection glares back with a vague hint of bile.

As I gaze at my image I realise
either me or the mirror is telling lies.

.

Written for Calen’s Sandbox Challenge – Exercise 1, which offers you a fun way to get to know yourself .

©Jane Paterson Basil

Lord Backsivore’s Letter #a poem

Note: Backsivore, or Backsie Fore, is a word (or phrase) from the Devon dialect. It means back-to-front.

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The sun shines bright with a matt-black glow
each late-night morning in Backsivore.
While stars ask each other which way to go,
thrilled nihilists speak of a meaningful core

Babies rise late to starve screaming mothers
before peeling toast from their jam.
The vegans grab guns and hunt for  plump plovers
while Beefeaters gobble up ham,

and the man in the moon puts on her dress
to strum on an an unstrung guitar,
and the song unsung is an ungarbled mess
about unspoken secrets repeated afar.

In the deep-forest city of Backsivore,
each week ends before it begins,
months are short and years are shorter
and decades are the length of two pins.

Centuries remain an untrodden track,
since there’s no known way to measure
the length of elastic componants so slack,
so none of the sums add together.

In Backsivore the losers win prizes,
and petite women wear a large sack
while L and XL are the smallest of sizes,
and a shirt buttons up at the back.

Every brave truth is a cowardly lie
and all bitter lies are sweet facts.
The curtain twitcher is no kind of spy
and the sadists disperse kindly acts.

I’m quite convinced that I’d never would guess
that I’ve said too much, and much less is more,
I hope this is useful, no more and no less…
Coldest Regards
from Lord Backsivore.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

Mumbling Sheep

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At the start of the end of the heady hippie days
I briefly dipped my toes in the sinking hippie ways.
I floated in long dresses and I jingled as I walked,
I used the hippie lingo every time I talked.
I tried smoking cannabis, but not for very long;
it took all my sense away and made me feel wrong.

I never fancied LSD – I liked to see the world
in its organic gorgeousness, not twisted and unfurled.
I disagreed with half the things the lippy hippies said;
they thought they were original, but their minds half dead.
They told me I was brainwashed because my ideas
were far too well-considered for their dippy hippie ears.

They said that they were breaking out of mediocrity,
they said their way of life was a better way to be,
they said they wanted peace and an end to all the killing,
but when I asked for action, few of them were willing.
They spoke of demonstrations, but they always missed the train,
or they couldn’t be bothered, or they feared that it might rain.

I was often irritated by their inconsistency;
the only thing they stood up for was brewing cups of tea.
Most of them were stoned from smoking Mary Jane,
a few of them were tripping, and one had gone insane
from swallowing blues, snorting speed and smoking weed —
to put it very bluntly, they had all gone to seed.

It’s true that their culture had seen some better days,
but I met a lot of mumbling sheep, slumped in a fuzzy haze;
while I was a thinker, and I let my thoughts run free,
they were more concerned with the psychedelic creed.
They agreed with whatever concepts stood at odds
with all the world’s hard working, deep thinking bods.

It was interesting at first, and fun for a bit,
but it wasn’t very long before I had to admit
I didn’t fit in with my drug-loving friends
who spoke of new beginnings, but never tied up ends.
I looked like a hippie, but I felt no passion
for the pseudo hippiedom in local fashion.

Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #Week 10.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Trickery

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Boil the cauldron till it sings,
then add a pair of spider wings,
leaf of toad and bud of newt,
heart of fungus, rabbit’s root —
Throw them in and mix them up
to make a wicked witches cup.

Worm’s left leg and fishes foot,
frozen flame and snow-cap soot —
add a pinch of ghoulish youth,
a silent laugh, a liar’s truth,
hemlock toenails, adder’s hair —
fling them in without a care.

Eye of creeping pondweed slime
and other stuff that makes a rhyme
will finish off the recipe,
now stir it gently just for me.
Mash it up and make a paste —
not a drop must go to waste.

Now try this recipe on all
insurance men who come to call.
Smear it thickly on your face —
they’ll run away without a trace,
then wash it off, and you will see
your skin will glow more healthily.

Oh! what a foolish girl she is
that she should vainly take notice
of a stepmother like me,
and make my toxic recipe.
Her former beauteous, smiling face
now melts beneath a gruesome paste.

And what a clever witch am I,
I didn’t need tell a single lie;
The silly salesman ran away
to see her glowing green and grey,
and now the mirror will agree;
there’s no-one prettier than me.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Hot chocolate

I could meander in free verse about what I did today
but I appear to have nothing interesting to say.
Perhaps I should compose a poem about addiction
but I don’t really want depressing non-fiction.

I’d like to pick on Shakespeare for a parody,
But I’ve come to respect him, so I’ll let him be.
A sonnet on love may be rather sweet,
but I can’t seem to focus on the rhyme or the beat.

I could write about a horse, or a cat, or a dog,
but I feel as if my brain is surrounded by fog.
How about a fiction with a futuristic tone?
but my brain is shrivelled and it’s dry as a bone.

I try to write an ode about frustration and tears,
but some shrunken grey matter slips out of my ears.
Surely I could manage a poem about the beach –
but the words have skipped from my poetic reach.

I could write a simple haiku on a gossamer wing,
but I have no inspiration for the smallest thing.
So I’ll make a mug of chocolate and go to bed
and concentrate on having sweet dreams instead.

©Jane Paterson Basil